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Proposed lead casting business 'not a danger' to residents, says Portage mayor

screenshot from City of Portage YouTube video
Rev. Michael Cooper presents a stack of letters from residents concerned about a proposed lead casting business to Portage Mayor Sue Lynch during the Oct. 11 city council meeting

Portage officials are downplaying environmental concerns about a proposed lead casting business.

During Tuesday's city council meeting, Rev. Michael Cooper said he was worried the proposed business would put lead into the air near Countryside Park and presented 200 letters from concerned residents. "So I'm asking if you will respond tonight to people like Kevin on Brown Street who is asking how is his family going to be safe, Bruce on Brown Street, Shauna on Kimberly Street," Cooper said.

But city officials argued that the scale of the operation is much smaller than Cooper is leading people to believe: just a father and son who plan to make fishing sinkers and diving weights. Sanitary Superintendent Tracie Marshall said neither the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nor the Indiana Department of Environmental Management had any concerns about potential hazards.

"Everyone watched the movie 'Patriot.' It's basically what they did on there. They just took a little piece of lead over a fire. People do this in their backyards all the time," Marshall explained.

Mayor Sue Lynch criticized Rev. Cooper for portraying the proposed business in a way that she believed was inaccurate and for gathering opposition from people who don't even live in Portage. "I think my problem is you're misinforming the public and you're scaring them, and there's people that don't live anywhere near this and will not even be near it. It's not a danger, and you have to stop going around and scaring people with information that is incorrect," Lynch told Cooper.

Still, Cooper said the proposal raises significant health concerns, but Council President Collin Czilli said he trusted the EPA and IDEM opinions.